Clash of the Kindles: which one should you buy?

E-readers used to be the simple, beans-on-toast comfort food of the gadget world. That’s all changed.

Amazon makes a whopping four different Kindles, all with proper e-reader screens you can gaze at for hours without getting a headache. They can all store thousands of books, last for weeks off a charge and even the cheapest Kindle has a touchscreen these days.

Look at the range and you can be left scratching your head as to why one costs almost so much more than the other. Here’s our breakdown of how they differ and which one’s right for you.

BEST FOR…SITTING ON THE BEACH

Kindle (R2,000)

The cheapest Kindle of the lot is the chubby funster of the e-reader gang. It costs about the same as a pair of trainers, can dole out any of the written content the (likely-to-be-expensive) Oasis handles, and is the perfect present pick for the person who reads in fits and starts.

It doesn’t feel slow to use, and the screen has the same E Ink anti-glare tech as the best e-readers. Its display is exactly the same size as all of its brothers too: six inches across.

Get up close and you see why it’s cheaper. The biggie is that it doesn’t have a light. You better either have a pretty powerful bedside lamp or be taking it somewhere bright and sunny. Like the beach, say? Just keep it away from the water.

It also feels a lot cheaper. A bit of extra chunk is one thing, but its rough plastic just doesn’t feel quite as nice as that of the rest of the Kindle royal family. If you want an affordable Kindle to use and abuse in daylight, this is the one.

BEST FOR…BED TIME

Kindle Paperwhite (From R3,150)

A design that has been around for four years, this is the classic Kindle. Its curvy soft-touch back and ultra-plain looks aren’t as slick as the newer members’ lines, but the Paperwhite has a job to do, and it does it like a pro.

This is the e-reader to pick if a) you’re going to use it at home all the time or b) you don’t mind that it’s pretty chunky with a case. On the positive side, the Paperwhite has been around so long there are hundreds of cases of all shapes and sizes for the little guy.

The basic tech is just as good as any Kindle, with a lit, ultra-sharp 300ppi screen that makes text look just as sharp as it does on the real page. There are no page-turning buttons, though, so you will have to move your thumb an inch every minute or so. Effort overload.

BEST FOR…THE COMMUTE

Kindle Voyage (R4,600)

The Kindle king until the Oasis came along, the Voyage is Amazon’s attempt at a futuristic-looking e-reader. A totally flat front and funky angles on its back give it a look closer to Amazon’s Android tablets than its e-readers.

For a long time, it was the only Kindle to have an adaptive screen light. This is where, just like a phone, the screen light changes to suit how bright your background is. Two sets of page turn buttons let you flick forward without moving your thumb more than a fraction of a millimetre, too.

A bit of an experimental ereader, this slim magnesium-body wonder is great if you like the sound of those fancy features but don’t want to pay more than R5,000 for it.

BEST FOR…FIRST CLASS TRAVELLERS

Kindle Oasis (Rtba)

If the Voyage was a ‘futuristic’ reader at launch, the Oasis is all about luxury. Its body trims down to a MacBook Air-like 3.4mm point at one end, leaving the other end to act like a comfy handgrip. The screen has stretched to a much larger 7in size as well, so you can fit more words on a page.

As there’s no logo on the front, it works for lefties and righties equally. Just flip it around.

This is the perfect partner for lounging by the pool, because it’s the first Kindle to be given the full waterproof treatment. It also gets the Kindle Voyage’s ambient light tech, so you won’t have to keep tweaking the brightness. Audible audiobooks are on board now too, so you can pair some Bluetooth buds and listen whenever you like.

You can also get a lovely real leather case that fills in the wedge on the back, although it no longer boosts the battery life like the original 6in Oasis. Available in merlot, walnut and black, there’s something terribly classy about the Oasis wrapped in its formal wear.

The Voyage put advanced features out there, the new Oasis refines them. This is the luxury car of e-readers.

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